“You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline. You are not to bow down to them or serve them.”-Exodus 20:4-5
When God handed down His 2nd Word to Israel, it was a revolutionary concept at the time.
The Hebrews probably didn’t quite know how to properly deal with this command when it was first given to them.
Because at that time in the world, every known god was represented by some kind of image based on an object or a creature from nature.
It may have been the sun, the crescent moon or a star.
Or it may have been an animal or even a human form and in some cases it was a hybrid animal-and-human form.
The way the primitive mind reasoned at the time was if one didn’t have a visible god-figure to worship, how was it even possible to worship at all?
A particular animal or object was chosen because it embodied the qualities of the god they were worshipping.
For example, a frog represented water, a necessary element for life.
An eagle represented soaring dignity.
A bull represented brute power.
If a god was perceived as having multiple attributes, then accordingly many different symbols were used.
Looking back in history, one common characteristic we notice about mankind’s use of symbols is that there wasn’t much originality.
An entirely new symbol was rarely created out of the blue.
Most of the time, the same symbol from a previous culture was just copied.
Sometimes a slight change was made to the symbol to make it unique to the user and a new meaning may have been attached to it, but it was still just a carrying on from what came before.
And as time passed, a symbol copied from generation to generation eventually lost its original meaning.
Yet the people still held a fond attachment to the symbol.
When God handed down His 2nd WORD, not only was it going against the cultural traditions of the time, but also went against man’s natural tendencies to want to worship something visual.
This tendency continues to this very day.
For example, one pagan god symbol that has infiltrated the Christian church originally went by the name ASHTORETH in ancient times.
ASHTORETH was a fertility goddess whose primary symbol was that of the bunny rabbit.
In the Scriptures, Israel was condemned time and time again for worshipping this pagan fertility god.
ISHTAR is the Western European name for ASHTORETH.
However, today we know this fertility goddess by the name “EASTER”.
Or how about the Catholic Church and all of their statues of Christ?
I know people will defend their use of these statues by claiming they’re not really worshiping them.
But I’ve heard that some Catholics actually bend down and pray toward these statues, sometimes even kissing and wiping their tears onto them.
Or how about that Christian fish symbol?!
I’m aware that many believers will defend this image by saying it doesn’t represent Yeshua, it’s just an icon that identifies oneself as being a Christian.
“We’re NOT really worshipping it!” is the common argument used.
I understand where they’re coming from but what I’m saying is it’s a dangerous and slippery slope.
When we go ahead and create a symbol, even though it may not have been our original intention to treat it as an object of worship, I think over time, consciously or unconsciously we develop a fondness towards it that can begin to border on actual worship.
That’s just human nature and when we study the Scriptures we see that’s exactly how the Israelites kept slipping back into idolatry.
It always started with innocent intentions that eventually got way out of control.
And that is how many believers today get into trouble.
We don’t intend to offend God when we erect a Jesus statue or celebrate the resurrection of Christ with an Easter bunny and eggs.
I think some serious soul searching has to be done concerning many of our unscriptural traditions and customs and whether or not they might be violating God’s 2nd WORD if not in letter but most definitely in spirit.
Again, take a good look at the 2nd WORD.
God does not say it’s okay to create symbols of faith and of Him as long as you don’t worship them.
There are actually TWO instructions in His 2nd WORD.
First, do NOT make any symbols or images of ANYTHING in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline, period!
Second, do NOT worship these symbols or images, period!
There is no wiggle room here.